Comitan Chiapas is a gorgeous city and pueblo magico in the southernmost part of Chiapas state. Despite its charm and proximity to many of Chiapas’ main tourist attractions, it has remained off the main tourist trail, at least for now.
However, Comitan is just as worthy a base for your exploration of Chiapas as the more well-known San Cristobal de las Casas. In fact, it actually places you closer to El Chiflon waterfalls, Lagunas de Montebello, and the archeological sites of Tenam Puente and Chinkultic.
The town itself is charming. It is well deserved for a day or two of your time if you want to experience the authentic laidback Chiapanecan lifestyle and culture.
Visiting Comitan Chiapas
Comitan Chiapas was recognised as a pueblo magico in 2012. It is one of four towns in Chiapas to be awarded such an accolade.
Pueblo magicos are Mexican towns and cities that have been recognized by the Mexican secretary of tourism as offering particularly notable culture, beauty, or gastronomy. So, when a settlement holds such a title, it should be seen as a reassurance that it is well worth visiting from the onset.
Comitan’s full name is actually Comitan de Dominguez. This land has been occupied by millennia and has been the home of several indigenous groups.
Comitan’s pre-Hispanic name was Balún Canán meaning “Nine Stars”. Balún Canán was founded in a swamp by a large group of Tzeltal Indians.
In 1486 it was subdued by the Aztecs who changed the name to “Comitlan” derived from a Nahuatl word meaning “Place of potters”. Spanish colonizers changed the name to Comitan, which was easier for them to pronounce.
In 1915, it was changed a final time to Comitan de Dominguez. This was in honor of a beloved local doctor and politician Dr. Belisario Dominguez. If you pass through the Zocolo (town square) today, you will see grand busts in his honor.
Things to do in Comitan Chiapas
Comitan is the fourth largest city in Chiapas with a population of 140,000 people. However, in spite of that, it has a very small-town feel about it.
The town center is relatively compact and you can see all of its highlights in a day. You don’t need to dedicate days to exploring central Comitan in itself. However, if your itinerary allows, you can spend 2-3 days here and use the town as a base to explore more of southern Chiapas.
Visit the Comitan Archaeological Museum
The Museo Arqueológico de Comitán (Primera Calle Sur Ote., Centro), is a must-visit during any trip to Comitan Chiapas. It contains a selection of excellently well-preserved Ancient Mayan masks, pottery items and artifacts that were excavated in Southern Chiapas.
The exhibits are organized chronologically and take you from the prehistoric period to the pre-classic, classic, and postclassic. The museum is free to enter and it is interesting and enjoyable, despite the fact that the information inside is only displayed in Spanish.
Some of the artifacts and masks contained inside are so unusual, that arguably the collection of items here is even better than those in larger, better-known Mayan history museums. The exhibitions are separated into items that were excavated from the city of Chinkultic and those that were excavated from Tenam Puente.
There is also a room that contains ever-changing temporary exhibitions. In 2022, this contains a collection of stunning street photography photos depicting life in Chiapas through the decades.
Have Breakfast at the Casa Del Marques
The Hotel Casa Del Marques is a gorgeous hacienda-style 1920s mansion that has been transformed into a luxury hotel and restaurant. If you want to feel like royalty during your time in Comitan, you can opt to stay here.
Rooms are reasonably priced and boast decadent chandeliers, ornate azulejo floors, and grand furnishings. Alternatively, you can simply stop by for breakfast.
Whatever day of the week that you happen to stop by, you will see well-heeled locals having breakfast with their friends and family here. It’s something of a place to see and be seen in Chiapas.
Opt to dine in the beautiful sculpture garden or in one of the ornate dining rooms, surrounded by beautiful artwork. All of your favorite Mexican breakfast dishes can be found on the menu here – chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, etc.
Hang Out in the Zocalo
The main squares/plazas of towns in Mexico are called zocalos and the central piazza in Comitan is particularly stunning. There is a small bandstand and dozens of flowerbeds filled with fragrant, colorful native flowers.
You will see indigenous women wearing their traditional dress and selling flowers at the side of the road, along with street vendors selling everything from religious icons to street food. The zocalo is something of a rendezvous point among locals who meet on the benches here to share a coffee or chat with friends.
Busts of notable figures in Mexican history sit among the trees and flowerbeds. Among them, is a bust dedicated to Benito Juarez – beloved former prime minister of Mexico recognized for leading the country to its independence.
The pièce de résistance of visiting the zocalo is its gorgeous pastel-colored yellow church. This is the Temple of Santo Domingo. It is a former convent and it was founded by Dominican friars in 1556.
It is possible to venture inside, provided that you are respectful of those worshiping within. Indeed, the interiors, complete with an ornate marble altar, are just as impressive as the exteriors.
Sample the Local Cuisine and Street Food
You will see a plethora of street food trucks scattered throughout the zocalo and down the side streets of Comitan de Dominguez. Light snacks are incredibly affordable here and you can purchase a taco for as little as 10 pesos.
Street food options in Comitan range from your classic Mexican favorites (elotes, churros, tacos, etc) to Comiteco specialties. While in the area, be sure to try the latter.
Many of the regional delicacies that you can sample here are unlike anything you will find elsewhere in Mexico. Cascara preparada is a must-try.
This is a giant wheat puff prepared elote-style topped with fresh cream, corn, veggies, and chili. For a light lunch that doesn’t break the bank, order yourself some chinculguajes – tortillas stuffed with chili, beans, and coriander.
Alternatively, order a Pan Compuesto. This is a small sandwich filled with chicken, beans, beetroot, and Chiapescan cheese.
Take a Day Trip to El Chiflon Falls
El Chiflon waterfalls are a highlight of most peoples’ Chiapas itineraries. There are 5 stunning waterfalls to be found here, the most notable of which is the Cascada de Vela Novia.
It is named “the bridal veil” on account of how its crystal-clear water cascades over a dramatic clifftop just like the veil of a wedding dress. It towers over the rest of the park at a height of 230 feet.
The other waterfalls: Cascada Ala de Angel, Cascada Arcoiris, Cascada Suspiro, and Cascada Quinceañera are all just as worthy of your time and attention. A lot of people visit El Chiflon falls on an organized tour from San Cristobal de Las Casas.
However, basing yourself in Comitan de Dominguez and taking the Colectivo bus to the park is a much better option. Opting to explore independently gives you a lot more time to conquer the various hiking trails.
Colectivos run frequently and this option is much cheaper. The ticket costs just 30 pesos.
You cannot swim in the pools at the base of the waterfalls. However, you can swim in the river within the park complex so don’t forget to pack a swimsuit.
Visit Tenam Puente
Two lesser-known Mayan ruins are located relatively close to Comitan. They are very much off the beaten path and so, visitors will often find that they have them entirely to themselves.
Tenam Puente is the closer of the two – situated just 11.6km/a 20-minute drive south of Comitan and accessible via Colectivo. Chinkultic is a 45.5km/a 50-minute drive south of Comitan, close to the Guatemala border.
Tenam Puente comes from the Nahuatl word tenamitl meaning fortification. The site dates back to the early post-classic period (900-1200 AD) until it was eventually abandoned for reasons unknown.
During its heyday, Tenam Puente was a major commercial hub and its residents would trade with Mayan cities in Guatemala, to the south, and the Gulf of Mexico, to the north. The archeological site is not only important historically, but also culturally.
The locals still use the site as a place to conduct spiritual rituals and ceremonies. Every May, many southern Chiapas residents visit Tenam Puente to pray for a good harvest.
Similarly, in August each year, the indigenous Tojolabal people venture to the Tenam Puente to enjoy food, drinks, and celebrations with loved ones in order to give thanks for their lives and success. If your travel date coincides with these celebrations, you can participate in the festivities.
This is from the Mayan ballgame Pok-a-Tok. Players would have to hit the ball through the hoops using any part of their body except their hands.
Take a Trip to Chinkultic
Chinkultic is another very worthy Mayan city to visit from Comitan Chiapas. It dates back to 600AD and is one of the westernmost ruins of the Ancient Maya civilization.
You can climb the various structures here, including that at the Acropolis. In doing so, you can enjoy spectacular views over the surrounding jungle. The panoramas up here would give Palenque a run for its money.
There is also a small cenote just left of the site. This cenote (natural sinkhole) is particularly important as it is the only known one of its kind in the state of Chiapas. Chinkultic is relatively compact and is best explored in combination with a trip to Montebello lake.
Opting to rent a car in Mexico and self-drive gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility and is arguably the easiest way to get to Chinkultic. However, if you are not comfortable doing so, you can access the site via Colectivo.
Comitan colectivos do not run all the way to the site entrance. Instead, you need to take the Montebello lake colectivo.
They drop you at an intersection of the road near Chinkultic. From there, you have a short 2km walk along a dirt trail to the entrance.
Be sure to purchase a Mexican sim card so that you can stay connected at all times. Download an offline map like Maps Me and take plenty of water.
Shop for Local Artisanal Products
A lot of excellent artisanal and organic food products are produced in Chiapas. For instance, did you know that Chiapas is one of the largest producers of organic coffee in the world?
50% of Mexico’s coffee is produced here. There are several coffee plantations that you can tour if you consider yourself a coffee aficionado. Many of the best are located near Comitan in the southern Chiapas highlands, or close to Ocosingo.
However, if you don’t have the opportunity to visit a plantation or you are short on time, there are plenty of artisanal stores in Comitan where you can purchase beans. The sheer number of coffee variations can be overwhelming so you can ask the store vendors for their best recommendations.
Chiapas coffee is known for its light, delicate flavor and light to medium body. As you meander through the side streets of Comitan, you will find a lot of quaint, quirky stores selling coffee apparatus, cups, and mugs.
Chiapas cheeses are also excellent. A national favorite across Mexico is the soft, creamy crema de chiapas.
This ultra-creamy cheese is prepared by hand and is only produced in this part of the country. It has started to gain more recognition in recent years and has the potential to be recognized as a product of designated origin in the near future.
There are several excellent cheese shops in Comitan. These are great places to pick up some Mexico souvenirs and many also offer a complimentary tasting.
Cheese shops to look out for in Comitan? Cosas y Quesos Paulita (C. 4A Nte. Pte. 65, Cruz Grande), Boutique de Quesos Establo de Villa (Libertad Campanario), and Quesos La Gloria (En la 6 Av poniente Sur Entre la 11 calle poniente).
Enjoy Comitan by Night
There are several great restaurants and bars in Comitan, mostly gathered around the zocalo. Tatalampo ( 1ra C. Nte. Ote. 37, La Pila, 30018 Comitán de Domínguez) is a particularly charming place.
This tiny little bar and restaurant are set within an old house. It is so small that it feels as though you are hanging out in someone’s living room.
Live music is hosted here almost every night of the week. The menu serves up regional delicacies and has been lovingly prepared by several different local chefs.
Nearby, Restaurante Regional “Doña Chelo” (4a. Pte. Sur, Guadalupe) is a good place for sampling Chiapas delicacies. Alternatively, Ta Bonitío (Central Nte. 5, Centro), operated by chef Sergio Caballero is a nice spot if you want to indulge in hamburgers, and vegetarian dishes, and generally, just have a change from Mexican food.
Spend a Day at Lagunas de Montebello
From Comitan, you can take a day trip to Lagunas de Montebello. The gorgeous, multicolored lakes situated here are arguably one of the most naturally beautiful sites in all of Mexico.
There are 59 lakes here. Some sit on the Mexican side of the border, others are located on the Guatemalan side.
From Comitan, you can take a colectivo to the lakes for just 20 pesos. Lagunas de Montebello is a perfect place to spend a day out in nature.
There are walking trails to follow and boat rides are available on some of the larger lakes. These offer a great opportunity to get out on the water. Many cafes and restaurants are scattered around the main lakes, although you can also pack your own food and enjoy a picnic if you so wish.
It is possible to swim in the natural waters here. So, be sure to pack your swimsuit, sunscreen, and towel.
Browse the Local Markets
Part of the charm of visiting Comitan is found in simply taking the time to get lost in its narrow sidestreets. There are a plethora of independent art galleries and adorable boutique stores here.
They sell everything from quintessential Chiapescan souvenirs to one-of-a-kind clothing items and Quinceanera dresses. Even if you are not looking to buy anything, it can be fun to window-shop.
Meandering through Mexican traditional markets is always a fun experience. Comitan’s Mercado 1 de Mayo is a small marketplace but worthy of your time nonetheless.
Here, you will see vendors selling everything from meat to fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables. Many of the stalls here sell pozol – a pre-Colombian drink made with fermented corn dough.
Nearby, Plaza de las Artesanías is, as the name suggests, filled with vendors selling artisanal products. Here you will find little Chiapas dolls and worry dolls, traditional apparel, and leather footwear.
Getting to Comitan Chiapas
It is easy to get to Comitan de Dominguez from San Cristobal de Las Casas. Buses run between the two cities several times per day.
There is a distance of 93km between the two cities and the journey takes approximately 2 hours. Ómnibus Cristóbal Colón (OCC) and ADO buses service this route.
A one-way ticket from San Cristobal to Comitan costs approximately 66 pesos (circa $3 USD). You can purchase your tickets in person at the bus station on your day of travel.
Alternatively, ADO tickets can be purchased via the ADO app and website. OCC and ADO tickets can be purchased online via Busbud although a small administrative charge applies.
Foreign bank cards, including American and British cards, are often not accepted via the ADO app/site. So, for this reason, you may often find that you need to use Busbud to purchase tickets.
Comitan Chiapas FAQs
Some of the most common Comitan FAQs and Mexico travel tips are discussed below.
Is Comitan Chiapas Worth Visiting?
Is Comitan Chiapas worth visiting? Yes.
The little town is often missed from Chiapas itineraries but it is definitely worthy of your time. That being said, the town itself is small and you can see most of it in a matter of hours.
So, you may only want to make the journey here from San Cristobal de Las Casas if you are using it as a base to explore the wider region of Southern Chiapas. Otherwise, it may feel like quite a trek.
Is Comitan Chiapas Safe?
The question of whether or not Mexico is safe is often at the forefront of people’s minds when planning a trip to Latin America. You may have similar concerns about Comitan, particularly as it is not the most common place to travel.
But yes, exploring Comitan feels very safe. Tourists are not a common sight here and the locals are happy to welcome them.
As you wander around, locals greet you with a smile and a “buenos dias/buenos tardes!” Just exercise the same common sense as you would when traveling anywhere else. For instance, no walking around alone at night, etc.
Border Checks Near Comitan Chiapas
It is important to note that due to the fact that Comitan is close to the Mexico-Guatemala border, there are additional police checkpoints in this area. If you take the bus from Comitan to San Cristobal de las Casas, it will likely be stopped on the outskirts of Comitan and the police may ask to see your travel documents.
As a tourist, be prepared to show your passport and FMM. This is nothing to be concerned about and appears to be standard practice. Yet it is one more reason why you should ensure that you have your identity documents with you at all times.
Have you visited Comitan Chiapas or the wider Chiapas region? What did you think?